‘Eric The Eel’ was the nickname given by the media to Eric Moussambani Malonga, who represented Equatorial Guinea in the 100 metres freestyle swimming event at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in 2000. Amazingly, Moussambani only taught himself to swim, in a 20-metre hotel pool in the capital city of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, after his entry to the Olympics, via a wild-card scheme. When he arrived in Sydney, he had never seen a long course, 50-metre swimming pool.
In his heat, at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre, Moussambani faced just two, unheralded opponents in the form of Karim Bare, representing Niger, and Farkhod Oripov, representing
Tajikistan. However, both men false-started and were disqualified, leaving Moussambani to race alone, against the clock, in the hope of achieving the qualifying time of 1 minute, 10 seconds. Suffice to say, he did not, eventually coming home in a time of 1 minute, 52.72 seconds, which, although a personal best, was the slowest time in Olympic history. Moussambani later admitted, ‘I have never been so tired in my life.’ Nevertheless, he became the most heralded Olympian in Sydney, famous not for his success, but his valiant failure.
Of course, the term ‘ring’ typically describes a solid object in the shape of, or a group of objects arranged in, a circle. However, according to Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) regulations, a boxing ring must be 20 feet, or 6.10 metres, square inside the ropes. Indeed, a square boxing ring, albeit with different dimensions, was first specified in the ‘London Prize Ring Rules’, developed by the London-based Pugilistic Society in 1838.
In a boxing context, the term ‘ring’ is a throwback to the days of bare-knuckle fighting, which reached the peak of its popularity in the seventeenth century. In those early, pioneering days, contests were fought inside a circle, roughly drawn on the ground, and surrounded by spectators. Often, those spectators held a rope, which not only confined the fighters to a prescribed area, but prevented interference once the contest was underway.
Thus, the term ‘ring’ became part of boxing parlance and persisted even after the sporting arena became square, rather than circular. In fact, in some quarters, the boxing ring is still referred to as the ‘squared circle’.
The player who holds the record for the most appearances for the British & Irish Lions, formerly the British Lions, is Irish lock Willie John McBride. All told, Mcbride toured with the Lions five times, to South Africa in 1962, to Australia and New Zealand in 1966, to South Africa again in 1968, to New Zealand again in 1971 and, finally, to South Africa yet again in 1974. His Lions’ career yielded 17 Test caps, four more than his nearest pursuer, legendary scrum-half Richard ‘Dickie’ Jeeps and culminated in the captaincy of the most successful Lions side in history.
Subsequently dubbed ‘The Invincibles’, the Lions squad that toured South Africa in 1974 included such luminaries as Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and John Peter Rhys ‘JPR’ Williams. Under the leadership of McBride, the Lions won 21 of 22 matches and drew the other, but only after the referee controversially disallowed a ‘winning’ try by Irish flanker Fergus Slattery in the final minutes of the fourth and final Test at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. Nevertheless, the British Lions had won a Test series in South Africa for the first time.
In the face of deliberate, often violent, foul play on the part of the home players, McBride instigated a policy of simultaneous, collaborative retaliation, summoned by the call of ’99’ or, originally, ‘999’. The idea was that the referee could not single out any one Lions’ player for disciplinary action, so essentially had the option of sending off the whole team or no-one at all.
Hawk-Eye was the brainchild of British inventor Dr. Paul Hawkins, who graduated from Durham University with a PhD in Artificial Intelligence in 1999 and once described himself as a ‘pretty reasonable cricketer’. Indeed, Hawk-Eye was originally intended as a cricket application and, in 2001, was first used by television broadcasters to analyse leg before wicket (lbw) decisions.
Neverthless, the principle of employing a network of computer-controlled cameras to ‘triangulate’ the position of a ball in three-dimensional space and calculate its probable trajectory, or path, is equally applicable to tennis. Nowadays, Hawk-Eye is used in tennis tournaments worldwide, not just as a broadcast enhancement aid, but as an officiating tool, on which chair umpires and line judges rely.
Hawk-Eye, as a line-calling system, made its debut in an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour event at the Miami Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida in 2006. Later that year, Hawk-Eye was put into operation at the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. According to ‘Tennis Week’, ‘Hawk-Eye eliminated interminable arguments and verbal assaults on umpires and linesmen that became such a nightmare and a form of gamesmanship years ago.’